Although our garden may resemble a postage stamp it has slowly and surely become a haven for small birds. Along with the pair of robins who reappeared last week we often see coal tits, blue tits, chaffinch, great tit, goldfinch, sparrows, wrens, very occasionally boisterous starlings…and that is where my bird identification skills end. I may have a degree in Biology but I was far more interested in odd tropical diseases, the mating rituals of fiddler crabs and what centipedes like to eat than the animals in the class of Aves. See, I warned you I was a geek.
Last year at the beginning of the festive season I remember seeing festive wreaths that were adorned with treats for birds. I had all good intention of making one this year, but time flew by. By the time the snow arrived a few days ago I decided to follow in the footsteps of a fellow workmate and make fat balls to keep the feathered friends in our garden warm throughout the winter.
Any good bird cake needs fat and seeds/nuts. Firstly in a large pan melt the fat, I used lard. The fat is not only used as the binding agent but also as an essential energy source for the birds. The fat has to be of the high-saturated kind as birds struggle to process other kinds. Vegetable fats should not be used as these are (unless they have been hydrogenated) liquid at room temperature and can ruin the balance of oils in the bird’s feathers. So best to stick to good old lard or suet. If you are using anything like peanut butter, of which birds love, add it to the fat now to let it soften. Once the fat has melted take it off the heat and stir in your other ingredients including birdseed, cereals (I’m talking oats/muesli base not Frosties!), dried fruit and nuts. These cakes are also a great way of using up stale bread and cake. Though cake in this household is rarely left to get to the state in which it is stale. Once the ingredients are combined pour into moulds. You can use empty yogurt pots, plastic cups or pour it into a lined 2lb loaf tin, leave to set. Once set, the loaf of bird cake can then be sliced and slid into a suet holder. As a rule of thumb 500g of lard plus other ingredients makes 1 x 2lb bird food cake
Of course all of the ingredients in these cakes are edible to humans, but I wouldn’t recommend eating them…unless you have a thing for lard that is.